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A quiet stroll can be had at the beautifully landscaped Veterans Memorial Park in Vista’s Paseo Santa Fe district. Dedicated in 2016, the park honors former Vista resident Ernie Pinamonti and other Marines who died during the Vietnam War. Photo by E’Louise Ondash
ColumnsHit the Road

Hit the Road: Where to go when you have to get out of the house

“Hey, I’ve gotta get out of this place.”

“Yeah, let’s go somewhere.”

“OK, but where CAN we go?”

I wonder how many times this exchange has occurred since last spring when Pandemic Part I unfolded. It’s been about 10 months since we began to live altogether differently in an effort to quell COVID-19, and now we are fully immersed in the Pandemic Doldrums.

We are going nowhere fast.

A horse-drawn carriage ride through Temecula’s vineyards and gourmet noshing is an experience still available through the Temecula Carriage Company. Courtesy photo

To be honest, I’m luckier than many. I’ve got a walkable subdivision, have met neighbors who have discovered the same as an alternative to confinement, and occasionally enjoy hikes at Oceanside Harbor and nearby Calavera Nature Preserve. We even took a side trip to ride the Verde Canyon Railroad, northeast of Prescott, Arizona.  The outdoor train cars made social distancing possible.

More recently, though, we’ve watched way more Netflix than my conscience is comfortable with, lost enthusiasm for cleaning more closets, and have traveled only via our old photo albums.

We are eager to get out and go.

If you’re feeling the same, this might help: a list of destinations, all within a 90-minute drive and focused on the outdoors. As of this writing, all are open, but check before you go.

  • Take a horse-drawn tour through various Temecula vineyards with Temecula Carriage Company. The tours are private and with household or pod members only. Drivers will narrate while you enjoy a picnic of meats, cheeses, olives, crackers, wine and chocolates.
  • Blue Sky Ecological Preserve in Poway offers both easy and challenging trails through various terrains, including riparian, oak woodlands, chaparral and sage scrub. Photo by Robin Sjogren

    Still a quaint town nestled in the San Jacinto mountains, Idyllwild offers serenity among the pines and clean air. There also are challenging hiking with great views and interesting landscapes. Nearby Lake Fulmor provides for more leisurely walks, fishing and picnics surrounded by equally beautiful scenery. Idyllwild Regional Park offers five trails, a challenging rock-climbing course, and perfect picnic spots in its 200 acres.

  • The Santa Rosa Plateau Ecological Reserve, just southwest of Murrieta, offers 9,000 acres of hiking trails through protected ecosystems that include woodlands, riparian wetlands, chaparral and more. It’s also home to Riverside County’s oldest standing structures and a species of fairy shrimp found nowhere else in the world.
  • For a contemplative stroll, visit Veterans Memorial Park in the new Paseo Santa Fe section of Vista. Created and financed by the Pinamonti family, it honors their son/brother, Ernie, who died in 1969 during the Vietnam War. He is represented by a stunning sculpture at the pond. Memorial designers also have incorporated letters between Ernie and his family, and the letters of other Marines who have died, in the walkway and on nearby walls.
  • It’s a quick drive to Orange County and its wealth of trails, all nicely listed at SoCal Hiker. The guide provides an interactive map and excellent roundup of trails with descriptions and degree of difficulty.
  • A friend recently recommended Blue Sky Ecological Preserve in Poway, and her photos convinced me that I need to go. The terrain and vegetation are diverse, and the really ambitious can hike all the way to Ramona Lake. It’s a popular spot, so weekdays are best.

Do you have a favorite place that is still accessible during the pandemic and that you are willing to share? Email [email protected].